Here's a strange thought. What if Fedor Emelianenko loses tonight at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva? What if Antonio Silva does the impossible and upsets "The Last Emperor"? And what is Silva not only wins, but wins handily? What would MMA and Strikeforce be like tomorrow?
I'm curious to hear everyone else's thoughts in the comments, but here are few things that would likely happen in such a scenario:
Fedor would likely retire. Before his loss to Fabricio Werdum, Fedor recently admitted he was considering retirement. He isn't in love with mixed martial arts. He enjoys being in close proximity to his family. He's got the money he's looking for and he's closer to 35 than 30. Perhaps M-1 would lean on him to continue fighting given the leveraging power he uniquely provides, but that would have limited play. If Fedor is doing this when it's not a labor of love, will he really continue it
Antonio Silva's ranking among top heavyweight will jump, but the win by Werdum over Fedor will be slightly diminished. Fairly on unfairly, fans and experts will agree on the basic idea that Fedor has been struggling in the post-PRIDE era. Sylvia was not much competition and Arlovski almost stopped him, they'll say. I don't think the debate is very accurate, but the loss will push the argument forward. This is especially true given how Fedor's involvement with M-1 and push back against the UFC has tainted his image in the eyes of many former enthusiasts.
UFC President Dana White will likely reiterate the point that they didn't then and don't need now the great Emelianenko. Anderson Silva is widely regarded as the top fighter in the sport. That debate is mostly settled. But White will look to make sure he vindicates his decision not to bow to M-1's asks at the negotiating table.
The Strikeforce heavyweight tournament might take a hit itself. Part of what's pushing this tournament forward is the strength of the competitors. Fedor is currently ranked third. Bigfoot Silva is 10. Andrei Arlovski is 17. Brett Rogers is 12. Josh Barnett is 11. Alistair Overeem is 7. If the top-ranked fighter in the tournament, who is not only the favorite but the centerpiece of non-UFC MMA is toppled (and let's say toppled quickly), the tournament might loss luster.
Strikeforce will likely lose the ability to turn Emelianenko's languishing star power into a pay-per-view attraction.
Scott Coker's organization will also lose the fight most fans want to see: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Alistair Overeem.
The point of this entire post is this: while we expect upsets to happen, part of what will push this tournament and Strikeforce into new heights is the most celebrated commodities carrying it forward. A tournament final four of Brett Rogers, Antonio Silva, Fabricio Werdum and Sergei Kharitonov simply does not have the appeal of Fedor Emelinanenko, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett and Andrei Arlovski.
And a world where Fedor retires off of loss - certainly not a guarantee, but not a ludicrous idea - would leave a sour taste in the mouths of fans as well as Strikeforce brass. He's older, but not exactly pulling an Evander Holyfield. Two losses is nothing that's ever stopped Randy Couture or Chuck Liddell, but seems so antithetical to our image of Emelianenko.
Maybe this exercise is all for naught. Fedor should win tonight. But it's worth reminding ourselves that not all losses are created equal. The world dramatically changes if one of tonight's competitors losses. You literally can't say that for any other fighter on the card. Maybe that's part of what makes this fight so intriguing: it's not the fight itself, but what the results could mean. And they could mean quite a bit.